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“Aviva” Is A Dreamy And Impressionistic Dance-Filled Romance

There’s a lot going on in Aviva, an experimental new film that often defies easy description. At its core, this is a romantic drama about two lovers, but that’s very much just what’s on the surface. Through a very bold approach, both in terms of a structural decision, as well as a fearless display of nudity and sexuality, Aviva is a movie that some will find enthralling, while others will find pretentious. I’ll admit to occasionally being befuddled by the flick, but there’s an hypnotic quality to it all that quickly wins you over. Hitting this weekend, it’s being described as a mash up of Climax and Marriage Story, and while that’s not quite accurate, it’s a solid starting point. Mostly, it’s something wholly unique.

The movie is hard to explain, so forgive me if I use some of the official synopsis to begin. This is how IMDb describes it, presenting a deceptively simple story: “After meeting online, transatlantic lovers Aviva and Eden embark on a tumultuous courtship, love affair and marriage. The couple struggles, separates, and tries to get back together, as dual aspects of each one’s personality battles forces inside and out.” Yes, that’s all true, but Aviva and Eden are played as both male and female, at different points, with the former being mostly Zina Zinchenko, but also Or Schraiber, while the latter being either Tyler Phillips or Bobbie Jene Smith (who also contributes the choreography). It makes for a dreamy and impressionistic experience, filled with moveable characters, a light sense of confusion, and plenty of dancing. Boaz Yakin writes and directs, with cinematography by Arseni Khachaturan. Other cast members include Omri Drumlevich, Lorenzo Jackson, Yiannis Logothetis, Annie Rigney, Isaias Santamaria, Mouna Soualem, and many more.

Where to begin? You don’t have to be a dance aficionado to appreciate the style Boaz Yakin is offering up here. The quartet of Tyler Phillips, Bobbie June Smith (again, the mastermind of the film’s choreography), Or Schraiber, and Zina Zinchenko give their alls here, committing to putting their hearts, as well as nude bodies, on display. The graphicness might be initially jarring, but it soon becomes part of the vibe. It’s never meant to shock you, merely to free you up from conservative notions. It’s quite a risk on Yakin’s part, but it does pay off in a pretty strong manner.

Aviva probably could have told its story a bit quicker, as the nearly two hour running time dilutes its narrative momentum. It likely didn’t need to have quite as many sex scenes as it contains. These are legitimate issues that someone might have with the flick. However, what the end result becomes is hard to resist, provided you have an open mind. Yakin may not be initially who you’d expect to put forth this sort of work, but it’s evidence that he may have some really incredible art house projects in the future. The more he defies convention, the better, judging by this.

This weekend, adventurous fans of art house cinema should give a shot to Aviva. It’s not going to be for everyone, and quite possibly won’t be for most folks, but those who are captivated by the film are going to love it. If nothing else, it’s an instantly memorable movie that will leave you with plenty to think about. Kudos to Boaz Yakin for pulling that off. Take a look at this bold work and, provided you keep an open mind, you may well be rather surprised by what you find…

Be sure to check out Aviva, available to watch on Friday!

(Photos courtesy of Outsider Pictures)

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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